Giving Today’s Music a Kick In The Brass
You may be of the opinion that brass music is a forgotten musical tradition that ceased to hold its place in the consciousness and sphere of recognition of the public when people got bored of watching the fantastic movie Brassed Off all those years ago. As the music industry, and pretty much every facet of media, entertainment, and fashion for that matter, has demonstrated in the past decade or two is that trends and public affection for such trends tend to be an entirely cyclical affair, emerging like a nail stuck in a slowly-revolving wheel and receding almost as quickly as it arrives, only to come full circle and re-emerge at a certain point in the future. Saving us from the dismal trend of manufactured boy bands (One Direction), “please love me” attention seekers (Miley Cyrus), and detestable black holes of talent (Justin Bieber) are those with actual talent and passion for the music that they play and create, and it seems that it is brass music and the artists who are responsible for it that will be the saviours (at least in part, anyhow) of this hopeless age of music that is otherwise damned to a talentless hell on earth that is the top 40 singles chart.
Perhaps inspired by a recent big band performance that I went to see with my fiancé who as an equally impeccable taste in music, I felt like saying a few words about the position of brass music in an age that you would think has all but forgotten what it is to actually be talented. It seems that since 2007 though that brass music has been slowly gaining ground, even if it has been doing so in a fashion that has remained fairly under the radar and out of the “mainstream” as we know it. Anyone familiar with Youtube may have come across New Orleans’ modern-day brass sensation Hot 8’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, a song that inspired Brighton DJ/Record Label Owner Robert Luis to promote and support this unique sound (and indeed talent) that the 2000-2010 decade was sorely missing. Hot 8 were soon signed to Luis’s record label Tru Thoughts shortly after.
The incredibly energetic nature of Hot 8’s performances also reflect the struggle and experience of those who have lived and grown up around the New Orleans housing projects, just as one could argue that the UK tradition of Colliery brass bands such as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band reflect the struggle and turmoil of coal miners and labourers that endured horrific conditions, turning their pain and struggle into warm, heart-wrenching tones and harmonies that emerge from the bells of the various instruments within the brass band. It isn’t too much of a leap of logic to conclude that the UK is therefore a more receptive audience to brass music than many other countries, which is why brass music and brass sections within popular music (Mark Ronson being known to use a full brass section in his arrangements of popular songs such as the Zutons’ Valerie).
Past and Present
Further links between the past and the present are seen with traditional colliery bands choosing to spice up their performances a little with modern-day covers. The Hackney Colliery Band have been known to surprise often unsuspecting audiences with covers of various songs such as No Diggity, Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody and even a few of The Prodigy’s songs mashed up into a medley that wouldn’t be out of place on the dance floor of a warehouse rave.
If you aren’t entirely convinced that Brass is at least rocking the boats of at least part of the music industry, then simply visit the links above and have a quick search on Youtube of the aforementioned artists to see just how popular their modern-day brass interpretations and compositions have become. The alternative is to simply believe that all the world has left to give us in terms of music is year upon year of shambolic X-Factor winners singing songs written for them in a style dictated to them by people that simply aren’t them. There’s no auto-tune or lack of imagination with brass music at least, and playing within a brass ensemble takes true talent, the likes of which most people that are plaguing the top 40 at the moment could only dream of. May true musicians continue to be appreciated and let’s hope people don’t forget that musical standards don’t have to be as low as they are at the moment forever.